Book Review “Running Science: optimizing training and performance” by John Brewer

Sports scientist and Running Fitness columnist, John Brewer is the consultant editor for this book which is written by Brewer along with ten other contributors, mostly professors, scientists, and lecturers. Brewer has reviewed hundreds of scientific studies so there are many references to scientific journal articles throughout the book. Brewer and his co-contributors attempt to demonstrate how science and running are intertwined. As a scientist and runner, I was intrigued by this book.

Although this book is touted for beginner runners as well as the seasoned runner, I feel that it is definitely for the beginner runner. I also felt like there was only a minimal amount of knowledge I gained from this book but perhaps part of that is because I’m not only a seasoned runner but an experienced scientist as well. Perhaps if a seasoned runner that wasn’t a scientist read this book, they would gain more from it than I did.

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The book is laid out in a simplistic way that reminded me of a picture book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. There are 192 pages divided into eight chapters. For example, the first chapter, “The runner’s body,” explains VOmax, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, lactic acid, the aging runner, and the physical benefits of running. Other chapters in the book cover running form, carb loading and nutrition, running psychology, training and racing, equipment covering everything from shoes to sunglasses, stretching and core strength, and general questions like physical limits for the marathon and women’s record running times versus men’s.

There was very little in this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else before. However, I do think it’s important to get different perspectives  on running-related information since so much of the information on running is subjective, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read this book.

A couple of things from the book stood out to me:  1) the author points out that ice baths are best saved for periods of intense competition and not during training. I know ice baths are a bit controversial, but some people swear by them. I’m not going to get into the science explained about ice baths here, but suffice to say this isn’t the first time I’ve read that ice baths aren’t necessarily a good thing for runners and 2) the authors show evidence that ultramarathon runners have much higher pain tolerance than non-ultramarathon runners. This makes sense given how much more intense training ultramarathon runners have but I had never read any scientific articles about this before.

In summary, if you’re just getting started with running, this would be a great book to read. If you’ve been running for many years and haven’t read much about the science related to running, it would be a good book to read. However, if you’ve been running for a while and have read scientific articles about running, this may not be the book for you. Then again, borrow it from your library and see what you think. You might learn a thing or two.

Amazon link here

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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Itinerary Ideas for First-Timers to the United States- East Coast

As an American who has visited all but 8 of the states in the United States, take it from me, the US is a huge country. The entire continent of Europe is roughly the same size as the United States, to put things into perspective. Imagine driving from one end of Europe to the other end or even half of Europe in a week or two. That’s crazy, right? But yet some people come to the United States for the first time with the intention to drive across the United States, only to wind up spending most of their time in the car. There’s got to be a better way.

Here are some of my recommendations for a week-long itinerary in the United States, east coast only. If you have more than a week, add on days to either or both destination, according to your interests.

1) For the city-lover:  begin in New York City. With a population of over 8.6 million people, New York City is definitely a city with a lot to do and see. I’m not going to give recommendations for things to do and see in New York City, but I recommend staying here 4 or 5 days, depending on what you want to see and do. The noise and traffic can be a bit much for some people, so if you know you prefer to move on to a smaller area, I’d cut the time spent in New York to 3 days but wouldn’t go any less than that.

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Statue of Liberty- book your ticket several months in advance if you want to go to the top!

If you are a history buff, you can fly, drive a rental car, or take a train to Washington, D.C. There is an Amtrak train that will get you there in an hour less than it takes to drive (3 hours via train vs. 4 hours driving) and flying isn’t any faster, so I would recommend taking the train. Parking in both New York City and Washington, D.C. is expensive and difficult to find, not to mention the headache of simply driving in these hugely congested areas.

I suggest spending 2 or 3 days in Washington, D.C. As in New York City, public transportation is the best way to get around. The metro in Washington, D.C. can take you to the Smithsonian museums quickly and easily. I highly recommend spending time at the Smithsonian Museums, which are made up of 19 museums, galleries, gardens, and a zoo, all of which offer free admission. There are of course also the monuments and memorials you can admire on the National Mall. Most of the monuments and memorials are free or have a nominal fee. Check online to see if you need a ticket and if so buy it in advance.

2) For the history and nature-lover:  begin in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston is considerably smaller both in land mass and population than New York City and may be an easier transition for some people, especially those that don’t like large crowds. Boston has around 700,000 people but still has plenty to do and is also a great choice if you enjoy history. Again, I would recommend just using public transportation and walking to get around Boston. Although you could easily spend more time in Boston, 3 days would be a good amount to see the highlights.

From Boston, rent a car and drive up the coast to Maine. It’s a pretty long drive, at about 4 hours, 45 minutes. If you want to break up the drive, stop at Portland and spend the night here. Portland is full of great restaurants and nice places to stay. Your ultimate destination will be Bar Harbor, home to Acadia National Park. You could easily spend a week just in Acadia National Park, but if you’re only spending a week total in the US, you’ll have about 4 days here if you spend 3 days in Boston. You could also fly from Boston to Bar Harbor in about an hour, but honestly, the drive along the coast from Boston is worth it in my opinion.

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The beautiful coastline of Maine

3) For a beach experience and party scene:  fly into Miami, Florida. Miami is famous for its beautiful beaches, great food, and bar scene. If you like to hang out at the beach all day and party all night, Miami is the spot for you. Everglades National Park is also nearby if you want to take a ride through the Everglades in an airboat for a unique experience. Spend 5 days in Miami before heading to your next destination, Key West.

Key West is about 3 1/2 hours by car from Miami, although it could take longer if you stop at the many other little “keys” along the way. You can fly from Miami to Key West in 45 minutes if you are in a hurry, but if you want a memorable road trip, drive the Overseas Highway across a 113-mile chain of coral and limestone islands connected by 42 bridges, one of them seven miles long. Key West has a laid-back kind of feel, which may be a relief after the more upbeat party scene of Miami. Chill at the beaches and bars in Key West for 2 days before heading back home.

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One of many gorgeous sunsets we saw while in the keys!

4) To skip the bigger cities for a smaller-town feel:  fly into Atlanta, Georgia. Although Atlanta is a fun town and you could spend a few days here, for your first time to the United States, I suggest renting a car and driving the roughly 4 1/2 hours to Charleston, South Carolina. You could also fly into Charleston but flights from Europe will be cheaper if you fly into Atlanta. If you don’t have a driver’s license or can’t rent a car, by all means fly into Charleston instead. Charleston has consistently ranked number one city by Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, and for good reason. Charleston is a foodie destination, has beautiful beaches with soft, powder-fine sand, is full of historical sites, and has quaint bed & breakfasts as well as the usual hotels and Airbnb offerings. Spend 5 days in Charleston before moving on to your next destination, Savannah, Georgia.

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Powder white, soft sandy beach in the Charleston area

It’s about a 2 hour drive from Charleston to Savannah. To me, Savannah is like the little sister to Charleston, in many ways. Savannah is a foodie destination, has beautiful beaches at Tybee Island, has many fun historical sites, all of which Charleston has, but Savannah hasn’t quite reached the level of “stardom” that Charleston has, for some reason. I suggest spending 2 days in Savannah before heading back and flying back out of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, about 3 1/2 hours away by car.

Those are my top east-coast destinations for first-timers to the United States. There are of course many more but I had to draw the line somewhere!

What about my American east-coasters? What east coast travel destinations would you recommend to first-timers coming to the US?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

Update on Half Marathon Training Plan-Round Two

After my debacle of a half marathon at the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey in May 2017, I decided I needed to find a new training plan for my next races. I felt like my endurance had dropped so much that I would start off fine at races but then I couldn’t maintain the pace and by the end I was just defeated. However, for the race after the one in New Jersey, Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia last November, I stuck with the same plan but made other changes like my running shoes and different stretches and did much better in WV. Still, I felt like I could do better and I needed to make some major changes in my training plan.

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Post-race Marshall University Half Marathon

For many years I had been following a “run less, run harder” kind of plan where I would run three days a week. One day was a hill or tempo run, one was speedwork, and the other was a long run. There were no easy or recovery run days. On other days I would lift weights, do yoga, or ride my bike. I think it worked pretty well for me for the first several years but I probably got used to it and my body wasn’t challenged enough any more.

I discovered a half marathon training plan that seemed considerably tougher but not so hard that I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the runs. With this plan, there are five running days consisting of two relatively easy days with strides at the end, a tempo or fartlek run, a speedwork day, and a long run. I still do yoga once a week, do strength training at the gym, and ride my bike once a week when I feel like it won’t be too much for that week.

The first real test for this training plan came at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon  this past May. If you didn’t read my post on the race, I’ll cut to the chase. I felt like I did much “better” than at my previous several races. I usually am more interested in my age group placement than my actual finish time. Although I really enjoyed the course at the Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia, I finished 11th of 66 in my age group. In comparison, at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, I finished 7th out of 59 in my age group. I would say both races are pretty comparable as far as difficulty with the race in Idaho being a bit hillier so it seems like a fair comparison and there were similar number of women in my age group at both races. I’ll take this as an indication that my current training plan is a good idea for me and I’m going to stick with it.

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Post-race potato bar at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon!

I’ve been running through the heat and humidity for my next race, which is in Alaska, so hopefully the hot weather training will only help. I had forgotten just how much harder it is to run through the summer months. The last time I trained for summer races was in 2015 when I ran Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota in July and Dixville Half Marathon in New Hampshire in September so I was training throughout the summer. My fastest finish at any half marathon was at Spearfish Canyon and I finished second in my age group at Dixville, so I’d say my summer training paid off. We’ll see if that holds true in Alaska next month!

How about you guys- how many times do you use and re-use the same training plan for races?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Ten Tips for Americans Who Travel Abroad for the First Time

The first time you travel outside the United States will most certainly be a learning experience. Things will happen that you never even thought of before hand. Sometimes you get swindled by others taking advantage of clueless Americans. Most of the time, though, there are kind strangers who help you find your way or give you honest advice that ends up saving the day.

Over the years of traveling abroad, beginning when I was a college student, I’ve certainly learned along the way. By sharing a few things here that I’ve learned I will hopefully spare you some grief and stress, making your travels more enjoyable and save you some money while you’re at it.

1. Check out transportation options ahead of time

Depending on where you’re going, driving a rental car may be your best option or it may be a nightmare if parking is at a premium and/or you would be terrified to drive in the area because of overly aggressive drivers or roads so narrow you question whether they’re really even roads. You may want to take a taxi to get around or you may be in an area where walking really is the best option. Buses can also be a great option but can take much longer to get places if they have a lot of stops. To easily compare your options, check out Rome 2 Rio. For example, if you’re staying at the San Theodore Palace apartments in Venice you can see your options for getting there from the airport, factoring in time and cost.

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Make sure driving really is the best option before renting a car!

 2. Check Museum or Sight-Seeing Hours and Buy Tickets in Advance

Don’t make the mistake of just showing up at a place to take a tour without getting tickets or reservations in advance or you may be disappointed. Check the website hours well in advance (sometimes months in advance, depending on where you’re going and how busy it will be) and buy tickets ahead of time. This can also save you time of standing in line, by just walking up to pick up your tickets and being able to skip the line to buy tickets, plus you often get a discount by buying your tickets in advance.

3. Eat Where the Locals Eat

I’ve learned the hard way on this one. The bottom line is if you see that a restaurant has a menu in five different languages, that means they cater to tourists, not locals, and inevitably the food will not be that good and/or the food will be over-priced. There are exceptions of course, but in general, try to find a place that’s not near tourist hot spots if you can. Sometimes just walking a couple of blocks further away is all it takes to find a restaurant full of locals instead of tourists. If everyone turns and looks at you when you walk in and you feel a bit out of place, you’re in the right place. Just be sure to learn a few key food-related words before you go (or use Google translate on your phone) and you’ll be fine. I’ve found that even if your server doesn’t know much English, they’ll know enough to serve you a meal and drink, especially if you in turn know enough key words and phrases.

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A beautiful presentation of a meal in the Canary Islands

4. Paying for Things

Check well in advance to see if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees; if not, get one because otherwise you’ll end up paying a fortune in fees when you get home and get your credit card bill (that happened to me on my first trip to Mexico many years ago). Visa and MasterCard are accepted at many places around the world but less so in more remote areas so don’t rely solely on using credit cards. When you get cash from an ATM, make sure the ATM is physically attached to a bank and only make withdrawals when the bank is open in case you have a problem (your card is taken for example). Also, use your bank debit card that’s linked to your checking account (as opposed to a credit card), as the fees should be lower through your bank versus a cash withdrawal through your credit card.

5. Learn Some Local Words and Phrases

I’m not saying you have to be fluent in the language where you’re going, but learning how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, please, and some other key words and phrases can go a long way with locals. If you are at least making an attempt to speak the language, it shows you aren’t just another arrogant American who expects everyone to just speak English. A quick and easy way to pick up some language basics is with Duolingo, a free app that I often use for brushing up on my Spanish or picking up other words in other languages.

6. Check Your Cell Phone Plan then Rent a Mobile WiFi Hotspot

Check with your mobile carrier ahead of time to see if you have international roaming included in your plan and make sure you have data where you plan on going. If the fee for roaming internationally is exorbitant or nonexistent where you’ll be going, rent a mobile WiFi hotspot, or MiFi that you can use on your vacation. You can read about My First Experience with Mobile WiFi for International Travel. Since this time in Malta I’ve also used another company for MiFi abroad and was once again happy with my decision. If you’re like my family where everyone has their own phone plus a tablet or laptop and we’re all on different phone plans, it’s much easier to just rent a mobile WiFi where we all have coverage for all of our devices no matter where we are.

7. Bread and Water May Not Be Free

In the United States, most people are so accustomed to getting bread and water for free they assume that’s the case around the world, but not so. In fact, when I’m traveling, I assume the restaurant will charge for bread and/or water and decide ahead of time if I really want it. If you don’t want the bread or bottled water, by all means say so as soon as you sit down. In some areas of the world, tap water is unsafe for travelers so everyone drinks bottled water, and you can assume you’ll be paying for that, but in places where the water is safe to drink from the tap, just ask for a glass of water instead of bottled water. By all means do your research ahead of time so you don’t end up getting sick from the water (including ice cubes, fresh fruit and vegetables, and anything that might have been rinsed off).

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I carried my nuun water bottle all over the Canary Islands with me so I never had to buy bottled water.

8. Pack a Few Health Items

If you have an upset stomach, one of the last things you’re going to feel like doing is finding a pharmacy and trying to find medicine, most likely speaking to someone who doesn’t know much English. Pack some Immodium, Tylenol or Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Tums, and band-aids in your carry-on and you’ll have a good start to a small first aid kit perfect for travel.

9. Don’t Pack Too Much

Do you really think you’ll wear all four pairs of shoes plus the 20 different outfits you packed for that 7 day trip to Barcelona? Maybe a better question is “Do you really need to pack all of that stuff?” Don’t fall into the “just in case” trap, packing clothing or shoes just in case you decide to wear them. When you’re packing, choose tops and pants or shorts that all match each other and pack one pair of shoes that go with everything (you’ll be wearing your second pair of shoes for your trip). Packing cubes are amazing in that I can always put way more into my bag with packing cubes than without them, plus they keep everything more organized. Finally, roll  your clothes. I have a whole post on packing, Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again so please check that out for more information on packing.

10. Dress for the Weather

When you check the weather forecast before you pack, look at the daily highs and lows and chance of rain or snow for each day. This might seem like a silly thing, but I’ve traveled to places where I never thought I’d need anything more than short sleeves and shorts, only to find out the nights were much cooler than I had expected. Now I always wear a jacket or light sweater on the airplane for three reasons:  1) It’s almost always freezing cold on airplanes,  2) Even in the summer, many places get chilly at night or restaurants or other places that are indoors are often really cold to me because of air conditioning and 3) I always wear more bulky clothing on the plane like a jacket so I don’t have to pack them. If you’ll be hiking up a mountain with a big increase in elevation, you should know that even in the summer there might be snow at the top, so you’ll want proper clothing and shoes for that. Again, just do some research in advance to check the conditions.

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Learn from my mistakes- I had to buy that pullover I’m wearing because I didn’t pack a warm jacket for our day trip to Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain!

Those are my top ten tips for Americans who travel internationally for the first time. What about you all? What tips would you pass along?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Some Things I Wish My Non-Runner Friends and Family Could Understand About Me as a Runner and Other Tips and Advice

I’ve been a runner since I was in grade school when I ran the mile, 800 meter, and 400 meter relay on the school track team. The only time in my life when I wasn’t running was when I took some time off during college after developing shin splints. I feel like running is in my blood, as cheesy as that might sound. All of this also gives me insight into some of the bizarre things that runners do, which honestly seem perfectly normal if you’re a runner. What are some of these strange things that runners do, you ask? Well, I’ve compiled a list and included some other runner’s insights in the hopes to maybe enlighten non-runners. Feel free to share this list with some of your non-running friends and family!

1.  When I’m finishing a run, I’ll sometimes run past my house and run circles around the neighbors’ cul-du-sacs so I can reach a certain distance on my running watch. For example, if my running plan has me running for 4 miles but I’ve miscalculated and am only at 3.85 miles when I return home, I’ll keep running to get in that last 0.15 miles. 4 miles means 4 miles, not 3.85 miles.

2.  If I run by you and you wave or honk your car horn at me and I don’t respond, don’t think I’m being rude. I often get into a sort of zone when I’m running and I may not notice other people or cars around me. Either that or I’m so dead-tired I just don’t have the energy to lift my hand up to wave.

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3.  Get this in your heads people. A marathon is the same distance no matter where in the world it’s held and it’s always 26.2 miles, not 26 miles either, but 26.2. A half marathon is likewise always the same distance no matter where or when it’s held, that being 13.1 miles.

4.  A half marathon is still a very long way to run, even if it isn’t a marathon. Please don’t ever say to a runner, “I know you just ran a half marathon, but when are you going to run a real marathon.” True story, someone asked me that once.

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Long Beach Marathon, the only “real” marathon I ever ran

5.  Not everyone that runs is trying to lose weight. Believe it or not, many runners are fine with their weight (although they might wish that extra 5 or 10 extra pounds would go away) and they aren’t running just to try to lose weight.

6.  When I get home from a long run, I’m tired, often extremely tired. All I want to do is lie on the floor while I cool off, and have someone bring me ice water and what ever post-run fuel I’m currently in the mood for. If you have a runner in your house that’s just returned from a long run, please drop everything you’re doing and help this poor soul out for the love of all things sacred.

7.  Runners often obsessively check the weather before a run or especially before an upcoming race. Weather can quite simply make or break a run. If it’s going to be super-hot and humid, all of my finish time expectations go out the window for a race because I know that kind of weather will physically make it harder for me to run and I will inevitably be slower than if it was cooler. I can also try to dress more appropriately for a run or race, depending on the weather.

8.  Runners often get bruised toenails, which can then fall off, and sometimes we get blisters on toes and feet. It’s best if you just don’t look at my feet, especially if you’re a non-runner because I’m quite sure this is one thing you’re never going to understand. If you’re a runner, we can compare our bruised and blistered feet without blinking an eye and most importantly without passing judgement.

9.  Don’t ask a runner if they “won” a race. Often just finishing a race is more than enough of an accomplishment.

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Winning first in my age group was a huge win for me as far as I was concerned

10.  If you’re cheering on a runner friend or relative at a race, don’t tell other runners that the finish is “just around the corner” when they have another 10 miles to go. For that matter, don’t even mention the finish, just lie and tell them they look great.

11.  All runners like to be cheered on at races. Runners appreciate all the cheesy signs you make, all of those cowbells you ring, and cheering them on. It’s like fuel to a runner and definitely helps.

12.  If a runner is injured and can’t run, know that this will be a very difficult time for them mentally and emotionally. For many of us, running is such a big part of our lives, if we can’t run, we don’t feel like ourselves. Every runner is different with different needs so ask, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” Then actually do it (or don’t do it if they ask you to not do something). Most of all try to be patient and understanding with an injured runner.

What about all of my running friends out there? What are some things you wish you could share with your non-running friends and family to help them understand you as a runner? Other advice you’d like to share with non-runners?

Happy running!

Donna

 

How to Plan Your First Vacation to Europe

If you polled average Americans and asked “Where would you most like to go in Europe?” I’ll bet London, Paris, and Rome would be in the top ten percent. Many Americans even go so far as to try to cram all three places into one vacation, leaving them exhausted by the end. Is that what you really want or would you rather just pick one place and explore that area? There are many questions that should be explored to make the most out of your first visit to Europe. Do you even know where in Europe you want to go?

First ask yourself why you want to go to Europe. Is it because a friend or relative went there and said it was awesome? Or do you have something more specific in mind, like visiting St. Peter’s Basilica or The Eiffel Tower? Do you simply want to go somewhere different than the usual Disney World? Do you enjoy history and want to check out some historical sites?

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Want views like this? Go to Austria.

If you’re more flexible on where you’d like to go, you can look around for good deals on flights. As I mentioned previously in my post A Simple Way to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Airfare, Google flights is a great search engine for gaining insight on airfare. If you put in a city in the US and type in Europe, Google flights will generate a map with prices for major cities in Europe. You can even put in Eastern Europe or Southern Europe, for example, to zero in on a more specific region of Europe. Or, if you have a specific city you want to fly to but are flexible with your dates, you can check Google flights calendar day-by-day to see how prices fluctuate. Even if you’re locked in to only June through August for travel, prices often differ by at least a couple hundred dollars and sometimes several hundred dollars, depending on which dates you choose.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to go to Rome, Florence, and Venice in Italy. This is certainly do-able if you’re going to be there more than 7 days. If you have 10 days to spend in Italy, you could spend 3 nights in Rome, 4 nights in Florence, and 2 nights in Venice or even 4 nights in Rome, 3 in Florence, and 2 in Venice (either would be great options). You can easily get from one city to the next by train. The rail system in Europe in general is pretty reliable and easy to navigate. I don’t recommend driving in any of these cities the first time you go and not even on subsequent times, as it’s just easier to get around in town by taxi and a lot less stressful, at least in these Italian cities.

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Don’t get me wrong, Italy is great, but why not go to Malta instead? There are less crowds and it’s cheaper but still filled with history and great food.

Let’s go back to the London, Paris, Rome example I brought up previously. To get from London to Paris can take up to 9 hours on a bus, a little over 6 hours by car, just over 2 hours by train, or a bit over an hour by plane. Taking the train seems the obvious choice to me, given the hassle with airports and the time difference between flying and the train isn’t that great. From Paris to Rome is a bit more of a stretch since the distance is much greater. One good option is to take the night train from Paris, on the Artesia sleeper trains from Paris to Italy. You must reserve a sleeping berth in either a sleeping-car or more economical couchette car (4 or 6 bunk-style beds) in advance. However, you can fly from Paris to Rome in about 2 hours for under $200 (usually much less) on Air France or one of Europe’s many discount airlines.

Putting all of the above together, let’s say you have 10 days total (9 nights) to spend in London, Paris, and Rome and you’re going to spend the first 3 nights in London. From London you’ll take the train to Paris and spend 3 nights there then fly to Rome and spend 3 nights there before flying back home to the United States. This is a bit tiring because of moving around such great distances, but the most you’ve spent in actual travel time in Europe is roughly 2 hours at a stretch, which isn’t bad. This of course doesn’t include any time spent at the train station or airport, but still isn’t terrible. I’d say it’s not as bad as it may seem at first, when you do the math and calculate the travel time.

By no means am I supporting the London-Paris-Rome first trip to Europe plan, however. Personally, I like to explore one country at a time, starting in a bigger city simply because they’re always cheaper to fly into, then branching out into smaller towns and villages of a country. For example, when I went to Austria, I flew into Munich, Germany and spent a couple of days here before I moved on to some of the small towns of Austria like Bad Gastein, St. Johann im Pongau, Werfen, and many others that most Americans have never heard of. I enjoyed the scenery, food, and activities much more in these tiny towns than I did in Munich. I know, technically I did explore two countries in my example here since I was in Austria and Germany, but other than Munich, I didn’t see any other parts of Germany other than driving through to get to Austria.

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Crete is not nearly as crowded as some other Greek islands but is full of beautiful beaches, gorgeous hiking trails, and ruins!

I guess my most important points in all of this would be the following. First determine how much money you can budget for this European vacation. Then figure out why you want to go to Europe and what specifically you want to see and do. Next look at travel times and how to get from one place to another if you want to visit multiple cities and look at the costs involved. Finally, factor in accommodations, dining out, drinks out, museum costs and other entertainment costs and leave some money for souvenirs and any unexpected costs. I’ve found that by choosing places that are a bit different than where some people might choose, they’re usually less crowded and cheaper, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box when choosing where to go!

By figuring these things out in advance, it will greatly add to your peace of mind, which should help you enjoy your vacation more. You will also find that it’s not so complicated after all to plan your first vacation to Europe. Given all of the information available online on destinations, you should be able to put together a package that includes your airfare, accommodations, transportation, and some ideas for things to do.

Some general planning websites I like:

Conde Nast Traveler

Frommers

Fodors

For figuring out how to get from point a to point b:

Rome 2 Rio

For flight information:

Google flights

Seat Guru

For putting all of your travel plans in one place:

Trip It

So go ahead and start planning your first vacation to Europe! Just don’t make the mistake of going there in August. Many Europeans take the month of August off work to travel so many restaurants and other businesses will be closed in August and beaches and other hotspots where Europeans like to vacation will be packed. Instead, travel during the shoulder season in September and October (with the exception of Paris, which tends to be quiet in August but crowded in September). Finally, I would be happy to give advice on anything travel-related if you have a more specific or personal question. Just send me an email @runningtotravel (gmail).

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Review of Soundcore Spirit X Sports Earphones by Anker

Disclaimer: I was sent a pair of Soundcore Spirit X Sports Earphones by Anker with the understanding I would share a review of the product. That being said, the following is my honest opinion of the product.

Several months ago, I requested to be a part of a review committee with Anker called Power Users because I have some of their products and have been pleased with their performance, especially for the price. After not being sent any products to review for several months, I contacted them and requested a product to be sent to me, not asking for anything specific. I received the Soundcore Spirit X Sports Earphones within about a week and immediately began testing them out.

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First impression: these earphones reminded me of a pair of sports earphones I had several years ago, with the over-ear hooks and silicone eartips. I don’t even remember the brand but I do know I had them for quite a while before they began to short and have issues. The main thing with the over-ear hooks is they’re fantastic for running; they never fall out, unlike earphones without the hooks.

More recently I had been running with Anker Soundbuds Slim Wireless headphones and while I really liked the sound quality and no longer having to deal with wires, I would have to pop one of the earbuds (usually my right ear) back in every so often during my runs. The Soundbuds Slim headphones are lightweight, sweat-resistant, and come with over a dozen accessories to adjust the size. They also last a long time on a single charge (the reported time is 7 hours but I didn’t personally test that). I also like that they are magnetic, so the short wire that does come with them never gets tangled. In short, I was pretty happy with these headphones. While they aren’t perfect, they are pretty good and at $25.99, I considered them a bargain when I bought them.

Moving on to the Soundcore Spirit X Earphones, as I mentioned before, because of the over-ear hooks, I didn’t need to adjust the eartips or anything else. They felt comfortable in my ears straight out of the box and the over-ear hooks fit comfortably. I’ve tested the sound quality while running outside, running inside on a treadmill, at work, and at home and have been pleased with how they sound during all conditions. I noticed once during a podcast some sound variation (the sound suddenly dropped for a few seconds then went back to previous level a few times) but I’m pretty sure it was actually the podcast I was listening to, not the earbuds because I haven’t had that happen since then.

Another nice feature is that they come in a round case with a carabiner so you can hook it to a gym bag, backpack, or even a belt loop. The case zips closed and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. I love that I can easily take these with me to work, the gym, when I travel, or anywhere else without having to worry about them getting lost in a bag or any wires getting tangled.

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My awkward close-up of Anker’s Spirit X earphones

The Spirit X’s small cable allows you to control the volume, microphone, and power easily with a touch of a button. You can skip tracks by pressing and holding down the plus button for a second. The cable is also easily adjustable and fits comfortably behind your neck. The bluetooth connected quickly to my phone and my computer at work without any issues (one is an Android, one is an Apple product).

Finally, a note on the battery life. Anker states the Spirit X Sports Earphones have a 12 hour battery. I tested that and found that mine have gone for 13 hours on a single charge, right out of the box, and are still going. I realize battery life for electronics decreases over time, but so far, it’s looking good.

In summary, for the price, fit, sweat-proof-ability (is that a thing? It is if you live in the South!), sound quality, and battery life, I highly recommend the Soundcore Spirit X Sports Earphones by Anker. Honestly, so far I can’t come up with a single thing I don’t like about them.

If you’d like to try them, you can buy them on Amazon for $39.99 here.

Anker has a bunch of other electronic products as well, like portable chargers and many others. In my experience, they have well-made, high-quality products for very reasonable prices.

Do any of you have a favorite kind of earbuds? Have you ever tried running with ear buds that come with ear hooks?

Happy running!

Donna